The Grand Tour: Two Weeks in Europe, Abbreviated

Hello again, dear reader. The time has finally come to talk about my trip to Europe! As you may imagine, a trip that spanned just over two weeks cannot be sufficiently covered in a single blog post. Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk more in depth about each of my destinations, but for now, here’s a little teaser of some of the highlights.

London

Big Ben Parliament London England
Imagine you have only 2.75 days in London. What are the absolute must-see sights? That’s what I’ll tell you – because really, I only had 2.75 days in London. Hint: My top picks include some museums. Big surprise, right?

Rome

Colosseum Rome Italy
What would you do on your birthday if you were spending it in Rome? That was exactly the question I had to ask myself. It was definitely one for the books. And don’t worry – my time in Rome included a lot of gelato. I’ve been going to the same gelateria in Rome since 2008. Yeah, you’re going to want to know where it is so you can get some of that goodness yourself.

The Cruise

Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri
Isle of Capri Italy
Our first full cruise day included a 10-hour, whirlwind shore excursion that included stops in Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri. I’ve been to all of these places before, but they’re the kind of places you never mind visiting again. I’d go back to all of them in a heartbeat.

Day at Sea
Princess Cruise Mediterranean
If you’ve ever been on a cruise before, you know that a day at sea is a gift, but it can be a little difficult at first to adjust to the idea of having absolutely nothing that you really need to do. Allow me to provide you with some guidance on how to make the most of your days at sea.

Montenegro
Perast Montenegro
I’ll be honest. Before this cruise, I hadn’t given Montenegro much thought. But let me tell you – it is a stunning country with a rich history and a wonderful people. I’ll tell you my top picks for sights to see should you find yourself in Montenegro.

The Greek Isles
Corfu, Crete, and Mykonos
Mykonos Greece
I was lucky enough to go to three Greek islands on this cruise. While all of them are beautiful, each one has a unique flavor, and discovering what makes each one different is part of the fun. I’ll share with you what I loved about each of these islands and what sights you cannot miss on your visits.

Athens

Parthenon Athens Greece
We ended our time on the cruise ship in Athens and decided to stay an extra couple of days there. I had been to Athens twice before, so I already knew a lot of the places I wanted to see again, as well as a few places I had never been before that had to be on the itinerary. I’ll give you the must-see spots if you have only a day or two in Athens. And just to whet your appetite, I’ll also let you know right now that Athens won for best food this trip. I’ll share the foods you should eat and where to get them – and believe me, you’ll be grateful once you try them.

 

So that’s the overview! There’s going to be a lot ahead of us, and I am so excited to share everything about this amazing trip with you. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to telling you about all of the extraordinary places I visited, I want to share some of my tips with you about where to go, what to eat, how to prepare, what to pack, where to stay, etc. These posts are going to be jam-packed!

And I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise, but I took about 27.4 million photos during my trip. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @athomeandabroad (and my personal account, @carolinev89 too) to see more photos!

Check back soon for the first installation – London!

Written by Caroline Larson.
*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Caroline Larson.

New York City: Statue of Liberty

One of the last things we did in New York — and one of my favorites — was visit the Statue of Liberty. We saved this for the last day of our trip, and it was one of the things we both really wanted to do. It ended up being one of the highlights of the trip!

Statue of Liberty--Liberty Island--NYC

The night before, we got online and started looking for tickets, but everything said it was sold out. I had not even thought to reserve tickets ahead of time (I highly recommend you do so you can avoid this problem!). The Statue of Liberty is run by the National Park Service (NPS) and the only way to get on Liberty Island or Ellis Island is to buy a ticket from the NPS; no other boats are allowed to dock on either island.

We woke up the next morning and decided to head down to Battery Park (you can also enter from Liberty State Park in New Jersey), and we were planning to hop on the Staten Island Ferry instead. The Staten Island Ferry is free and drives right by Liberty Island so you can get a great view (and great pics) of Lady Liberty from the water. A lot of people do this instead of paying to dock and get out on the islands.

Statue of Liberty--Liberty Island--NYC

As luck would have it, we saw a line at the ticket booth and walked over, and it turned out that there were still tickets available (just not to go to the pedestal or the crown). We were both so excited because we didn’t think we were going to be able to get tickets, which added to the greatness of this day!

We docked at Liberty Island first, and walked around the island and took lots of pictures. You get great views of Manhattan from Liberty Island, in addition to great views of Lady Liberty. Next time I go, I am going to get crown tickets for sure. I think it would be so cool to see the view from the top!

Manhattan Skyline--Liberty Island--NYC

We both felt that it was extremely important to get the ultimate tourist photo of us wearing foam Statue of Liberty crowns at the Statue of Liberty. We found crowns at the gift shop and wore them with pride for the rest of the day!

Statue of Liberty--Liberty Island--NYC

After grabbing some lunch, we hopped on the ferry and went to Ellis Island. I loved Ellis Island. The museum was super interesting, and it was really fun to learn about the immigration process. When you go up to the second floor, they have a collection of different artifacts from people who came through Ellis Island. There are displays of clothing from people all over the world, different kinds of money, etc. It was all super interesting.

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After looking around the museum for a bit, we decided to catch a movie in one of the theatres. There are a few different films about the history of Ellis Island that you can view at the museum. Just as we had been seated, alarms started going off, telling everyone to evacuate the building. Apparently there was a report of suspicious behavior, so everyone was ushered outside. We never did find out exactly what happened — they let us back into the building about 10 minutes later — but it makes for a very exciting tale!

We spent a good majority of the day between the two islands, more time than I thought we would, and it was a very lovely last day in NYC! If you are debating whether or not you should make the trip out to Liberty and Ellis Islands, I highly recommend it!

 

 

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.

 

New York City: Food

One of my favorite things about traveling to a new place is being able to try lots of new foods! I love finding restaurants that are unique. (In other words, no McDonald’s when traveling!) Before going to New York I did lots of research on places to eat. I got some killer recommendations and ate lots of delicious food. I am so excited to share with you!

Before I start out, I wanted to share one tidbit of information that might be helpful if you are looking for places to eat in NYC. When the health department inspects a restaurant in NYC, they are given a grade. This grade is based on violation points during the inspection. The lower the points, the higher the grade. But here’s the best part: the restaurants are required to post their most current grade at the entrance in a place that is easy to see. So if you are like me and had no idea that this was a thing, now you know and you can make sure you eat at restaurants that have good grades!

Okay, moving on! Let’s start with dessert, shall we?

Magnolia’s Bakery: Arguably one of the most popular bakeries in NYC, Magnolia’s Bakery was established in 1996. My mom was the one who told me I had to make a stop during my trip. I made sure to bring back some treats to share!

Magnolia Bakery--Grand Central Station--Manhattan NYC

Location: Various locations around the city; original location is in Midtown Manhattan.

What to order: Cupcakes aka their claim to fame. I also tried a blondie.

Consensus: Both items were pretty much delightful!

Carlo’s Bakery: I have been watching Cake Boss since its debut in 2009. Naturally I was very excited to finally be able to taste some of the delicious creations. One bite and I was hooked!

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Location: Various locations around the city; we stopped at the store in Times Square. The original location is in Hoboken, New Jersey, if you want to go see where it all began. I didn’t have time to make the journey this trip, but it’s on the list for next time!

What to order: Pretty much anything, but some of the most popular items are the lobster tails and the cannolis. I chose a cannoli and it was honestly the best cannoli I have ever tasted! I should have ordered 10 of them because I would have eaten every last one.

Carlo's Bakery--Times Square--Manhattan--NYC

Consensus: 100% recommended! If you have time, go to the Hoboken location, if you don’t have time, stop in another location, you won’t be disappointed!

Ladurée: If you read my previous post about macarons, you know how much I LOVE Ladurée. I went multiple times while I was in Paris, and when I was planning my trip to NYC, I decided we needed to make a stop at the New York location. It was just as good as it was in Paris, but it was a much smaller store. There was a line (of course) and we were all packed in pretty tight! Even so, it was still worth the wait!

Ladurée--Upper East Side--Manhattan--NYC
Emmali’s first macaron!

Location: There are two Manhattan stores — one located on the Upper East Side and the other located in SoHo. We went to the location on the Upper East Side.

What to order: Macarons, of course! They have other pastries and treats, but trust me, the macarons are what you truly want! I have yet to try a flavor that I don’t love, but some of my favorites are rose, Marie Antoinette, and salted caramel!

Ladurée--Upper East Side--Manhattan--NYC

Consensus: 10/10 (as always) if you are anywhere near a Ladurée, get there as quickly as humanely possible!

 

And now for the main course!

 

New York Style Pizza: When I was planning out places to eat, I knew that pizza had to be on the list! Now, before I continue, I must add a little disclaimer because I am a Chicago-style pizza girl through and through, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy all pizza. We ended up grabbing a bit of pizza at a restaurant near our hotel. We tried two different kinds of pizza, and they were both delightful!

Consensus: In my opinion, Chicago style trumps NYC pizza. But it was still delicious, pizza is pizza right?!

Wafels & Dinges: This was recommended to us by some NYC locals. They told us it was a great place for breakfast/brunch. I am never one to turn down a good waffle, so we decided to give it a try. It was delicious! I felt a little bit of a sugar overload by the time I finished, but it was so delicious that I had to finish every last bite!

Location: Multiple locations throughout New York City!

What to order: Any waffle that suits you! There are lots of topping options — just be sure to add the scoop of ice cream! It was delicious.

Consensus: This is a perfect breakfast/brunch meal! You can never go wrong with a waffle. In the words of Leslie Knope, “Everyone should love waffles. If they don’t, they’re crazy.” I don’t think it could be said any better than that!

Rock Center Cafe: It was still too warm for ice skating, so instead of a rink there was an outdoor cafe set up below Rockefeller Center. After a busy day of sightseeing, we stopped in here for a bite to eat. We were unoriginal and both ordered the burgers, and they were pretty good.

Consensus: Overall, I would say that if you decide to eat here, do it for the experience. It is a fun atmosphere, and the food is good!

Shake Shack: You know that scene in the movie Something Borrowed when Rachel goes to visit Ethan in London and she brings a bag of Shake Shack food with her, and Ethan says something to the effect of, “Are you trying to make me cry?” Well, I now understand that emotional attachment to Shake Shack. I am always down for a burger and fries, and Shake Shack takes the cake for some of the best I have tasted!

Shake Shack--Grand Central Terminal--Midtown--NYC

Location: I recommend looking online to find the location nearest you — there are 21 locations in New York alone and 86 locations worldwide! We went to the location at Grand Central Station because it was close by our hotel. We may have made a few Shake Shack runs during our short visit…once just wasn’t enough!

What to order: Anything and everything! We tried burgers and fries (a MUST) and also tried shakes and cheesy bacon fries on our second run. It’s a good thing I am not close enough to go frequently because I would have a serious problem if I did!

Consensus: Run to the nearest Shake Shack while you can and enjoy every minute! I’ll just be over here mourning the fact that the nearest Shake Shack is 5 hours away from me!

Eataly: When I first walked in, I was a little confused; I was expecting a restaurant, but Eataly is so much more. Part Italian market, part Italian restaurant, and part cooking school, Eataly offers a little something for everyone. They section the store off by product, and the restaurants are no different. The pizza, pasta, seafood, etc. are all in different areas of the store. We had a blast wandering around while waiting to be seated at our table. The Eataly motto is, “We cook what we sell and we sell what we cook.” This is one culinary experience I would 100% recommend to everyone, especially my Italian food-loving friends out there!

Location: Eataly is another restaurant with worldwide locations, but if you are in New York, there is a location in Downtown (4 World Trade Center) and a second location on 5th Avenue (near the Flatiron building). We visited both stores but ate at the Flatiron location.

What to order: Whatever suits your fancy. I am a big pasta girl myself, and that is what we ate. I highly recommend it. I ordered the ravioli with lemon butter sauce. Words do not describe how delicious it was! I am still dreaming about it months later.

Eataly Cafe--Madison Square--Manhattan--NYC

Consensus: I would have to say hands down this was the best place that we ate while in NYC, the food was high quality and super delicious and the prices were really reasonable too!

So now that I have shared my food adventures in NYC, I want to know — what did I miss? What are some of your favorite NYC restaurants that I need to visit next time I am in the city?

 

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.

New York City: Museums

There are so many museums to visit in New York! I wish we would have had time to see them all. Sadly we didn’t, so we picked two! We went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Both were incredible!

Lots of the museums in New York (and many other cities) offer student discounts, so if you have a student ID, make sure to bring it with you to save some $$!

The MoMA:

I was so excited to visit this museum. My favorite painting of all time (Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh) is in this museum, and I was so excited to finally see it in person! And the rest of the museum was also really cool!

I haven’t been to many modern art museums, so it felt like something new! There were some incredible pieces and exhibits. Some of the exhibits were “hands-on,” so you could even touch the art.

One exhibit that I loved is titled The Mapping Journey Project by Bouchra Khalili. All around the room are giant screens, and each screen has different videos playing. Each video focuses on a different subject who has travelled through the Mediterranean basin. On the screen you see each subject mapping out their journey on a map while narrating their story. It’s a fascinating exhibit.

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They also have Monet and Picasso! What more can you ask for, really?

And I can’t neglect to point out the amazing views and the courtyard! Basically it was all just magical!

9/11 Memorial and Museum:

Originally we were only planning to visit the memorial, but we had some extra time and decided to do both. I am so glad we did.

9/11 Memorial--Manhattan--New York City

I have heard that the lines to get tickets for the museum can be really long at times, so you might want to consider purchasing tickets online. We were there on a Saturday evening, and the line was super short.

Honestly, there are no words to describe this museum. The main exhibit (located in the area that used to be the North Tower) takes you through a timeline of 9/11/2001. The exhibit has three main sections, the first focusing on the day of 9/11, the second about events that happened prior to the attack, and lastly, the events after 9/11.

Another really cool area of the museum is the memorial exhibit. This exhibit is located in the area that was originally the South Tower. The main area of the exhibit is a room lined with photos of all of the victims. They also have smart tables in the room, where you can learn more about the victims from the 9/11. We looked up a few of the people whose names we saw on the memorial fountains. It was a very touching experience.

I loved how they incorporated elements from the Twin Towers that were recovered from the rubble in the museum.

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There were many other museums we wanted to visit, but we simply didn’t have enough time. We did wander to the Met and the Guggenheim, but we just got photos outside!

So, what are your favorite museums in New York?

 

 

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.

New York City: Broadway

Going to see a show on Broadway is something you absolutely can’t miss when you go to New York. There are always tons of shows playing and lots of ways to get discounted/cheap tickets.

If you book early, you can get pretty inexpensive tickets. While I was in New York, I saw Les Misérables. It was their final weekend of performances; I booked through broadway.com and found tickets for around $65. Compared to some of the other shows, that was really cheap.

Les Miserables--Imperial Theatre--New York City

If you do book online, just make sure you are booking from a trusted website and that you don’t get scammed. Also, third-party sites often raise the price of tickets, so going right to the source is the best way to make sure you are getting the best deal!

You can also try to get day-of tickets at TKTS located in Times Square. Tickets will range from 20-60% off, but they have limited quantities so you have to get there early and wait in line. If you have your heart set on a specific show, I would say to just book through the show’s website ahead of time to guarantee a ticket. TKTS doesn’t always have tickets to every show, especially the more popular shows (e.g., Wicked, Lion King, Hamilton).

Another thing you can try is ticket lotteries or standby lines. Each show has different rules when it comes to things like this, so check their website ahead of time to make sure you know what to do. While I was there, I desperately wanted to see Hamilton. Sadly, all of the tickets during my visit were sold out (or were WAY out of my price range). But I had heard that they do a lottery for each show and give away the front row tickets for $10! Talk about a steal of a deal.

All we had to do to enter the Hamilton lottery was submit a form online at a specific time of day and we were notified a couple hours later if we won. Sadly, we didn’t win, but I will treasure my rejection email for the rest of my days! Haha!

Hamilton Broadway Lottery

Not all shows do their lotteries the same way, so like I said, check their website. There are lots of different options. Some shows have student tickets that they sell day-of for a great price, or you can try standby. Every show is different, so my best suggestion is just to check their website ahead of time!

My main regret from my visit was that I didn’t go to more shows. When I booked my ticket for Les Misérables, I looked at a few other shows that had less expensive tickets, but I wasn’t sure how much time we would have so I just booked the one show. When I got there and realized that I had plenty of time to add another show, it was super last minute and ticket prices had gone up. So instead we just walked around the theatre district and took pictures at some of the theatres… That’s almost the same, right?! 🙂

There really is something special about seeing a show on Broadway. I love going to plays, especially musicals. While I was deciding which show I should see, I talked to my sister Lyndsie, who saw Wicked in New York in the spring. I told her that I was hesitant to go to something I had already seen before. She told me, “It’s not the same though — you haven’t REALLY seen it until you see it on Broadway.” I couldn’t agree more!

I was glad we got to go to Les Misérables. It was incredible! Plus it is one of my favorite plays, and even though we were towards the back of the theatre, we had a great view!

Les Miserables--Imperial Theatre--New York City

I will definitely be going to more shows next time I am in New York!

What are some of your favorite Broadway shows you’ve seen?

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.

New York City: Best Free Things

There are so many things to do in a city like New York, and the best part is that a lot of them are FREE! I put together a little list of some of my favorite free things I did while I was in New York City.

  1. Central Park – There is so much to do here! We visited on a Sunday afternoon so the park was really busy, with people everywhere. After being in the city for a few days, it was so refreshing to spend some time surrounded by nature…even if it is all manmade! I loved walking around and finding places from different movies and listening to street performers. It was a great place to people watch, soak up some sun, and just relax. You can wander on foot, or rent bikes if you want to see more of the Park faster. I also recommend enjoying a nice picnic while you’re there!
  2. Brooklyn Bridge – If you go to New York, you have to see the Brooklyn Bridge. We didn’t really do much in Brooklyn, but we did make it down to trek across the bridge (along with hundreds of other people). It was a holiday so maybe it isn’t usually as busy, but there were TONS of people there. This would be another fun thing to do if you wanted to rent a bike. I went on foot, but there is a path for walkers and a separate one for bikers. There was a nice breeze in the air and it was fun just walking from one end of the bridge to the other!Brooklyn Bridge--New York CityBrooklyn Bridge--New York City
  3. Upper East Side and Upper West Side – Both of these areas are really fun to explore. There are a lot of fun places and I liked just stumbling upon hidden treasures. The nice thing about Manhattan is that everything is so close together. We started on the Upper West Side and wandered around a little bit. Then we proceeded to head through Central Park for a bit and ended on the Upper East Side. The Upper East Side had a ton of little specialty shops – we walked into one store that only sold pillowcases!
  4. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – We visited St. Patrick’s on our first night in the city. After a long day of airports, subway rides, and sightseeing, we were both pretty exhausted. We walked into the cathedral and just sat in one of the pews for a solid 30 minutes. It was such a relaxing time. It was almost like we had stepped into a whole different world. The staff there were so friendly and nice, even though we walked in right at closing time. I highly recommend stopping by for a visit. 
  5. Trinity Church – We continued our visits to beautiful churches by visiting Trinity Church on Wall Street and Broadway. My main reason for visiting Trinity Church was to visit the graveyard and see the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Hamilton, and Angelica Schuyler Church (the obsession is real). We walked around the graveyard for a bit; they have a really cool monument for Revolutionary War Soldiers. The architecture of this church is amazing as well. It was a beautiful place to stop and sit for a bit. 
  6. 9/11 Memorial – This memorial is definitely worth a visit. The memorial is free, but you can buy a ticket to go to the museum. We went to the museum and I am glad we did; I will be talking more about the museum soon! The memorial itself is beautiful. While we were standing at the memorial, we noticed some of the names had flowers next to them, and we found out that every morning the staff at the memorial places those flowers in the names of the victims who have birthdays that day. It was a really moving tribute.img_1923-1
  7. Grand Central Station – Grand Central Terminal is truly spectacular. The architecture of the building is so detailed, and I loved the giant zodiac sign on the ceiling. There are shops and restaurants too. We spent a good amount of time at Grand Central because it was our main subway stop. On our very last day in the city, we grabbed some goodies from Magnolia Bakery and sat and did some people watching. Make sure you pay a visit, and bring your selfie stick! 

 

So there you have it! These were some of my favorite free things that we did while we were in New York!

 

What are some of your favorite free things to do in New York?

 

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.

New York City: Apps

I don’t typically use a lot of apps. I usually keep very few apps on my phone (mainly because I would rather have the storage space for pictures :)). But I ended up using a couple apps in New York that were SUPER helpful. So here are my top 4 apps to use in New York City!

  • Yelp: This app was great for finding food places close to our location. There are so many categories and search fields that make it easy to find exactly what you are looking for. My favorite feature in this app is that you can sort by places that are “open now” so you don’t waste your time going somewhere that is already closed.
  • New York Subway: This app has a great overall subway map. In Europe I just used a printed map (I may as well have painted the word “tourist” across my forehead), but it got the job done and I didn’t get lost! With this app you can search for your destination and it will tell you how to get there. I found that the Citymapper app was a little more user friendly, but I did like that the New York Subway app had a map of the whole subway system that you could look at and see everything.
  • Central Park: Central Park is a great place to wander around, but if you are looking to find something specific, this is the app for you! This app offers a great map of the Park and shows you where to find popular landmarks, statues, bathrooms, and more. You can also view events in the Park from the app. There is even a built-in audio guide on the app!
  • Citymapper: This was hands down the best app that I used in New York. For first timers in New York with limited subway experience, this app was a life saver. The best thing is that you type in where you want to go and, from your location, it will show you different routes to get there. It tells you which stations to transfer at and even lets you know which part of the train will be less busy. The other great thing about this map is that it highlights the direction you are facing, so when you come up from the subway and are back on the street, you can tell which direction you are facing and which direction you need to go!

 

So there you have it. Those were my tops apps for New York City!

 

Did I miss any important apps for New York? What are some of your favorites? Like and comment below!

 

Written by Kaycie Jordan.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.